Four takeaways from Friday’s email to faculty on appointments and promotions

Irene Loewenson

As the College works to cut costs to weather the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) has been discussing sabbaticals, hiring, tenure decisions and faculty evaluations. On Friday, Dean of the Faculty and Chair of the CAP Denise Buell sent an email to all faculty members with an update on the CAP’s plans for the 2020-21 academic year and beyond.

Here are four takeaways from the email.

1)  Professors will not be compensated extra for having to restructure their classes for a partially or fully remote fall semester.

Even if campus reopens in the fall, the College will offer some kind of remote instruction to those who cannot return, as President Maud S. Mandel has said and as Buell reaffirmed in her email. Faculty will have to continue to adapt their classes to remote teaching.

“With salary freezes and ongoing financial pressures at the college, we cannot offer faculty monetary acknowledgment of this extra work, so we ask units to think creatively about how to make adjustments that could ease faculty workload,” Buell wrote.

These changes, intended to “minimize the stress on faculty,” could include “altering class sizes or formats,” Buell suggested.

2)  As it looks ahead to the 2021-22 academic year, the College is “essentially in a hiring freeze” for tenure-track positions and is reducing the number of visiting professors.

“There will be no more than three tenure-track searches conducted next year, two of which were authorized already in Spring 2019,” Buell wrote. 

In typical years, the CAP would have made its decisions by now about requests to hire visiting faculty. But this is not a typical year, and the CAP will defer most of these decisions until September.

When the CAP does consider requests for visitors, it may be less likely to approve the requests than it has been in the past, given the College’s attempts to decrease spending.

“[W]e ask that units plan curricula and leave patterns to minimize the need for visitors,” Buell wrote.

3)  The CAP will try to be flexible with letting professors defer their leaves and sabbaticals, but it cannot guarantee time off in the 2021-22 academic year — especially for tenured faculty.

Faculty who had planned sabbaticals (for tenured professors) and paid leaves (for assistant professors) for the upcoming year may find their plans interrupted by the pandemic, Buell noted. For example, faculty who had intended to travel for their research may not be able to do so. The CAP will “offer flexibility” for professors to defer sabbaticals and leaves, according to Buell.

Buell noted, however, that the timing of assistant professors’ leaves takes precedence over that of tenured faculty members’ sabbaticals. The CAP cannot guarantee that tenured professors who defer their sabbaticals will be able to reschedule them to the 2021-22 academic year.

“[T]he timing for the rescheduled leave will have to be established in relation to the unit’s curricular and staffing needs to smooth leave patterns and minimize the need for visitors,” Buell wrote.

4)  Although the teaching from this spring will not be taken into account in tenure and contract renewal decisions, the College will continue its evaluation of non-tenured professors next year.

The CAP had already decided that it would not assess teaching from this spring in evaluating non-tenured professors, although the Office of Institutional Research still asked students to fill out course evaluations. But in the 2020-21 academic year, Buell noted, the CAP will assess the performance of non-tenured professors. The CAP has not yet decided how it will factor in the ways the pandemic may affect performance.

“But we do think it is necessary for assessments of performance during the time of pandemic to take its disruption into account even as we will need to find ways to evaluate teaching, research/creative work, and service in the coming year,” Buell wrote.